It’s no secret that I have had a life-long love affair with the Cherry Ames series of nursing books.
I am what I am today because of this one book.
Of course, there have been times I have rued the day I ever laid eyes on it, especially after a shift from hell!
I wonder if there are any student nurses out there today who became nurses because of Cherry. The books have been released for a new generation, but they have not been updated. Cherry is still scared of Dr. Wylie and gives up her seat to senior nurses and doctors.
Now Sue never did a thing for me.
I never even read the books. I just found out today the author was a nurse herself and served in World War I.
Why didn’t I read the books?
Because of the butt-ugly cap that Sue wears on the cover! Geeze, the thought of wearing that would have turned me off the profession forever!
When Someday Nurse told me she wanted to host a “Change of Shift” with a theme, I was a bit taken aback. Nursing is the theme of Change of shift! When I found out her theme was “Student Nurses” I became inspired!
All sorts of advice flooded my head. I imagined imparting three decades of wisdom to the intrepid students of the nursing profession. Never mind that it would all fit into one post! I am the Voice of Experience, hear me roar!
My enthusiasm was diminished by a sobering thought. Being fifty years old, the majority of the nurses that are being educated and graduating today will be the nurses who are taking care of me in my old age! Like when I’m like ninety six or so. Everyone knows that ninety is the new seventy!
It would be nice to think they are still enthusiastic about the profession in years to come, and will choose to make nursing their life’s work. We will need these new nurses to be there for us.
This means that those of us who are practicing nurses today have to look closely at how we are treating our newest colleagues, particularly the ones still in training. This post about nursing students is directed to us, the nurses of today.
Chances are you are working with or around nursing students during your shift. You may not be their instructor, but you can have a great impact on their confidence and self esteem:
- Don’t just be available to answer their questions, be actively accessible to the students. Ask them if they have any questions! Sometimes they don’t yet know enough to know what questions to ask. If they are observing you, talk through your reasoning – why are you doing what you are doing? Just watching you will not help students with their critical thinking skills.
- Don’t ever make the students feel like they are a problem, in the way, a pain or a waste of your time. Many of them are anxious, nervous or may seem clueless. They are. And so were we, back in the day. Yes, you’re busy and it may seem like extra work. Treat students with respect and you will reap a stronger profession down the line, one student at at a time.
- When you see a student catch an error or observe a change in a patient through their assessment, give them positive feedback. That’s nurse-speak for a pat on the back. You can never be too effusive with your praise. The idea is to build self-confidence and pride in their professional accomplishments/growth. You don’t have to be a nursing instructor to do that.
- If you are doing something interesting, tell the instructor and get the students involved. Some will jump right in, others will need encouragement. Provide that encouragement. The student with the caught-in-the-head-lights look who is hovering in the back corner just needs some confidence. Trust me, I used to inhabit that back corner.
Nursing today is complex and it is extremely hard for a brand new graduate to “jump in” and carry their weight immediately after graduation. We don’t have an internship/residency type of post-graduate easing into the new role. Maybe we need to provide a modified version.
- Stop putting the new graduates into “orientation programs” and put them into transitional programs that last long enough to allow them to gradually acclimate to their new role as nursing professionals.
- The new graduate is truly a “novice” and the definition of that means that they are not yet able to see the “big picture”. An appropriate transitioning program is especially important these days as brand new graduates are being hired for intensive care and emergency departments where critical thinking is paramount and seeing the “big picture” is de rigueur for functioning efficiently.
- Gone are the days when a new graduate would cut their teeth on a med/surg unit and learn time management and priority setting before specializing. This is unfortunate, but the nursing shortage has made it a fact of life.
- I’ll go out on a limb and say that a minimum of six months of increasing responsibility with a preceptor be the minimum transition period for a new grad, perhaps a year in a critical care unit. Pay preceptors a good differential to make that position attractive.
It is no secret that we lose nurses to horizontal violence. Perhaps these ideas will help encourage new nurses to stay and cause potential students to seek nursing as a career.
- Stop slamming each other. The Three B’s of Nursing: Bitching, Bickering and Backbiting do more to damage our profession than any other single factor. No citation here, that is my personal opinion.
- Stop bad-mouthing the profession. Yes, nursing has issues and problems and addressing them is healthy and appropriate. Continual whining is not. When you put down nursing as a profession in your everyday conversations, you may be discouraging future students from entering the profession. Maybe not directly, but your friends and acquaintances have daughters and sons who they may discourage from entering the profession.
- Enccourage young people you know to consider the profession. We need the best and the brightest. Explain the difference between the nursing and medical professions. There are many good things about the nursing profession and we need to keep those positive aspects in the public eye.
The applicants are there, the instructors are not. Those of you with your BSN, have you considered getting an MSN and teaching? Or using your BSN to act as adjunct faculty with a local university?
You use your expertise every day for your patients. If we use it to help our nursing students, we are making a major investment in our own health and the health of our nation.
We owe it to our new colleagues.
We owe it to the profession.
We owe it to ourselves.